Betjemann Patented Tantalus
This two bottle Tantalus was made by the English company Arthur Jack & Co in the 19th century. Originally patented by Dutch cabinet maker George Betjemann (1798–1886), a Tantalus is a small case designed to hold glass decanters, accompanied by a lock and key. When the Tantalus is locked, the decanters are visible, yet they cannot be unstoppered or removed. This device gained popularity as a novelty item in the second half of the 19th century, when it was often utilized to lock one’s liquor away from young sons or servants, while still allowing the decanters to be displayed. A Tantalus could also be used to store other expensive or valuable liquids, such as perfumes or patent medicines. This object consists of a stately wooden frame accompanied by a handle that unlocks on the side, which allows the decanters to be removed. It is missing its original key. The patent number, 38307, is stamped onto one of the hinges. The frame is open to allow for optimal viewing of the two elegant glass decanters from all angles. Both decanters are square with circular stoppers. This piece would be a wonderful addition to any dining room or home bar display.
At this time in Great Britain, the world’s first postage stamp was released. Called the Penny Black, the stamp featured a profile portrait of Queen Victoria (r. 1837–1901), and cost one penny to purchase, regardless of the letter’s destination within the country. This implementation caused a mail boom; with more than 70 million letters being sent in the next year. A version of the stamp was commonly used for the next 40 years.